Exec: Energy Independence A 'Myth'

A motorist pumps gasoline in Boston, Friday, May 21, 2004. Everyone knows the United States relies heavily on foreign oil. But most people don't realize the nation also increasingly needs imported gasoline, a trend that's contributing to the recent spike in prices at the pump. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP
The idea of American energy independence is a myth and the United States must maintain "constructive relationships" with oil-producing countries for its own prosperity, the head of petroleum giant Exxon Mobil Corp. said.

"We do not have the resource base to be energy independent," Exxon Mobil chairman Lee R. Raymond said Monday in a speech in which he outlined some of what he called the "hard truths" about global energy markets.

Raymond, who runs the world's largest publicly traded oil company, said that while other countries, including Russia, will play a growing role in supplying oil to the world, the Middle East will remain the center of supply because it holds as much as half of the world's oil reserves.

"We simply cannot avoid significant reliance on oil and gas from the Middle East because the world's supply pool (of oil) is highly dependent upon the Middle East," Raymond said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The fact that the United States and the rest of the world will have to depend increasingly for its oil and also for natural gas from Middle East, "is not a matter of ideology or politics," he said. "It is simply inevitable."

Raymond scoffed at suggestions — heard commonly among politicians in Washington — of energy independence.

"We periodically hear calls for U.S. energy independence as if this were a real option," he said. "The fact is, the United States is a part of the world energy market and we must participate and compete in that market."

At a time when relations with some major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are strained, Raymond said the United States must work to "maintain appropriate and constructive relationships with oil-rich countries in the future. They will be very important for our prosperity and our security."

Both aides President Bush and his Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry have called for energy independence.

Last month, Kerry said it is time to "chart a new course to energy independence" by investing in new technologies and alternative fuels, and implementing tax incentives to encourage conservation.

In February, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "It's important to our energy independence to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Responding to a question from the audience about the recent terrorist attacks that killed oil workers in Saudi Arabia, Raymond said they "obviously give us a lot of pause" because Exxon Mobil has workers and investments in petrochemical plants and refineries in the country.

"We're going through a difficult patch right now … and may for some time," he said.

Exxon Mobil earned a record $21.5 billion last year, nearly double the previous year, and also reported record earnings during the first quarter of this year as crude oil and gasoline prices soared.

Raymond predicted that fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — will continue to provide most of the energy for many decades, even if there are improvement in conservation and efficiency and expansion of other energy sources.

As for global warming, Raymond expressed as he often has his skepticism about the science and predicted that in the decades ahead, "carbon dioxide emissions from greater fossil fuel use will climb."

Carbon dioxide is the leading "greenhouse gas" that many scientists believe eventually will cause a warming of the earth if allowed to continue to grow.

"We simply do not yet have the economic solutions or technologies that would permit us to meet future energy demands without carbon emissions growth," Raymond said.